A Look At The Swann PenCam Mini Video Camera & Recorder
The Swann PenCam is an interesting device – a mini video camera and recorder all built into a working pen. The particular unit we are looking at is the DVR-421 which contains a 2GB memory stick for storing videos (with audio) and photos.
Beyond the obvious uses of a PenCam, being that of surveillance, it can also be useful if, for example, you might be travelling “light”. For example, I don’t always want to carry around a camera in my pocket but it can be useful to know there is one on standby should the need arise.
The PenCam Mini Video Camera & Recorder, or DVR-421, comes in a nicely presented box. In the box is the pen itself (in two halves) which, when assembled, is slightly fatter than a typical pen (but only just) – and its black ink is clear for writing and the three extra refills should keep it useful for some time to come. A USB cable is also included together with the operating instructions, a quick start leaflet, and a software CD (although this is on mini CD).
At the top of the pen is the pinhole camera which is barely visible at a glance whilst on the rear are two holes – one contains an LED indicator whilst the other provides access to a reset button. It’s worth spending a few minutes with the instructions to get familiar with the LED indicators on the PenCam and to understand how to change between video and photo mode – which is done by opening the pen and sliding a switch inside.
Taking an image or starting a video recording is done by pressing the small silver button on the top of the pen but remember there is no viewfinder. In terms of image size and quality the captured still images are at a resolution of 1280×1024 pixels (JPG) whilst video is shot in 640×480 at 15 frames per second (AVI) – you can see a sample image (click on image below for larger image) and a sample video below. According to the manual the 2GB version of the PenCam should be able to store around 1.25 hours of video.
Two status LEDs (orange and blue) are built into the same hole on the pen and they indicate what is going on – essentially orange is standby and blue means the pen is doing something. Charging the PenCam requires plugging it into a spare USB port for an hour and a half then it should be good to go – the documentation suggests record time per charge to be around 90 minutes.
Overall the image quality is reasonable and does the job for which the PenCam is designed for. The PenCam is a gadget lovers dream – a camera in a pen, I mean just how awesome is that!
You can learn more about the Swann PenCam over at Swann: PenCam Recorder.